Dew Gibbons + Partners




Cosmetics Business published Creative Director Nick Vaus’ thoughts about how beauty brands can avoid some of the most common branding pitfalls in their March edition. For all of you without a subscription, we’ve dug into last month’s edition and brought out this sinfully good content for you:

1. Obfuscation
It’s obvious, but language matters. Whether brand name, product name, or words used on back of pack and other communications: language and tone of voice have the power to inspire and inform, or to repel and patronise. The worst is blinding with science and descriptions that don’t explain the product or how to use it. Fear-based language often adopts the ‘ers’ (reducer, perfecter etc) and implies the consumer is sub-standard in some way. And avoid anything that nails the brand to the mast of a particular zeitgeist in time, such as laddishness. Timeless clarity is all.

2. Complexity
In beauty, less should always be more – unlike FMCG where brands need to stand up and dance in the drugstore aisle for attention. If a beauty product is ultimately destined for display in the bedroom or bathroom, the last thing that’s needed is brash, complicated visual motifs and typography. This isn’t about using neutral palettes and Scandi minimalism. It’s about a lack of visual busy-ness, and a clear thread that links all products within a brand’s portfolio. Think packaging and comms with space, upper case non-serif lettering, and beautiful simplicity.

3. Homogenity
Mintel adds ten thousand new products to its beauty database every month. Most of these can’t afford to buy bespoke structures, and off-the-shelf structural solutions make brand differentiation almost impossible. Being luxe is also no guarantee of uniqueness: Victoria Beckham Estée Lauder’s makeup range looks strikingly similar to Tom Ford’s ridged beauties. The name of the game is ownability. Find a distinctive colour (away from the sea of black), perhaps via labelling or screen printing. Combine that with creative typography and unique graphic elements and you might stand out from the crowd.  

4. Fallibility
In beauty, it simply doesn’t matter how good the brand looks and sounds on the shelf, blogger review or otherwise. Consumers want all of the product to end up on their face, body or hair. If the packaging isn’t fit for purpose, people will definitely talk about it. Laura Mercier, Penhaligons, and Charlotte Tilbury are infamous for packaging failures: leaks, breaks, and seepage galore. Combine this with consumers feeling robbed because they can’t get all the product out and it’s clear that getting things right technically is absolutely essential.

5. Hubris
If outlandish brand and product claims ever did work, they certainly don’t now. All people need to do is to Google a review or an ingredient and that claim can be debunked in an instant. Big claims combined with the asterisk of doom* are likely to make people more cynical than something which appeals to an emotional benefit, such as feeling happier, better, and energised. And don’t get me started on photoshopped 15-year olds featured in anti-ageing cream ads. If you can’t meaningfully prove it, don’t say it at all.

*75% of two people agreed with this statement

6. Hypocrisy
Brands today need to have purpose and responsibility, whether social, environmental or sustainable. This is particularly true for Millennial and Gen-Z consumers, and 55% of respondents in a Nielsen survey were willing to pay more for sustainable goods. It’s great business. But for it to create brand value, it has to be meaningful, honest and measurable. Vague statements like ‘a proportion of our profits help charity x’ aren’t good enough. Want to be known for your environmental credentials? Explain the hows, whys and wheres of what you’re doing. And never, ever lie. Greenwash is never a good look.

7. Inconsistency
It’s no good thinking in channel silos. Brands need to look and feel the same, wherever they’re found. First and foremost, it’s about activating the brand’s purpose and big idea consistently across each channel in which it needs to be playing: packaging, in-store, online, on social, wherever. No matter the innovation, campaign, or channel, creative agencies need to work as one, for the brand. And if they’re not? Change them.

More reading:
The Language of Beauty
Sustainability: Beauty & Goodness Not Mutually Exclusive
Stereotyping in Beauty: We’re all Guilty